Carolyn Oberst interview

Carolyn Oberst

Carolyn Oberst (b1946, Philadelphia, PA) is a painter who lives and works in New York City, NY

 What attracted you to the b.j. spoke gallery open call?

Before I decide to apply to an open call, I look at the organizer and the curator. I liked the fact that the b.j. spoke gallery is a collective.  While I’m not in one myself, I think it’s a good idea for artists to support other artists when they can. Also, I was impressed with the CV of the curator and felt I would be pleased to be selected by someone of her caliber.

How would you describe your artistic inspiration?

The paintings selected for this show are all from the same “Back Story” series that I’ve been working on since 2019.  The inspiration for this series came after seeing the Werner Herzog film, “Cave of Forgotten Dreams”, which explored the most recently discovered, and earliest, cave paintings.

I was moved by seeing how the artistic impulse was so innate to early humans that they had a compelling need to create paintings reflecting the world around them. I felt such a strong connection to that impulse, that I decided to base my latest series of works on my own contemporary world. And to further the connection by working strictly with simple materials, choosing oil on canvas as a way to emulate the simple tools that the earliest cave dwellers used in their visual work.

These paintings fuse together a pastiche of imagery all taken from contemporary culture and placed in a non-literal setting, drawing from a spectrum of sources, to create what I see as visual poetry and a homage to the artistic impulse.

Can you detail the story behind one of your works selected for the exhibition?

The painting titled, “Spring Can Really Hang You Up the Most”, started with the image of a little ring that was covered with a circle of tiny flowers. There was something very poignant about it so, as I always do when I begin a painting, I started drawing it.  Eventually it grew much larger and more abstract. This started the composition off. The flower circle connected with a favorite Monet painting of a woman with flowers, which, in turn reminded me of a work by one of my favorite artists, Minnie Evans, someone who is not traditionally trained. That led to a woman smelling a flower and from there one thing led to another as I always let my subconscious be my guide in putting together the ingredients that make up my compositions. The exact meaning or narrative is open-ended leaving interpretations to the viewer.  I wanted the painting to present a poetic vision, abstract but figurative, catching the moment but embodying universality.